New Delhi: In a replay of cricket diplomacy that could help resume their stalled peace process, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 25 invited Pakistani leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Yusuf Raza Gilani to see the India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final at Mohali on March 30 — the first cricket clash between them after the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
“It gives me great pleasure to invite you to visit Mohali and join me and the millions of fans from our two countries to watch the match,” Manmohan Singh said in the letters to both the leaders.
“There is huge excitement over the match and we are all looking forward to a great game of cricket that will be a victory for sport,” Singh said.
Informed sources in Chandigarh told the media that President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani — whose wife has also been invited — had accepted the invitation to watch what is being billed as the biggest draw of the World Cup 2011.
After India crushed Australia in Ahmedabad on March 24 to set up the semi-final clash against Pakistan, Manmohan Singh — a strong advocate of peace with Islamabad — sent the invites through the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi.
India and Pakistan have not played cricket against each other since 10 Pakistani terrorists sneaked into Mumbai in November 2008 and slaughtered 166 people — almost triggering a war between the two countries.
Pakistan’s envoy to Britain, Wajid Shamshul Hasan, quickly applauded the Indian invitation.
“It is a great goodwill gesture,” Hasan told CNN-IBN television channel. “It (the semi-final) is not just a cricket match. It is a great occasion.”